Nazarene Theological Seminary hosted attendees from across North America 25-27 September for the Hugh C. Benner Preachers Conference.
This year’s events began with a half-day pre-conference on Church Music and the Christian Year, featuring Karen Westerfield Tucker, professor of worship at Boston University. The pre-conference was part of the Watkins Lectures on Church Music, a series established in memory of Rev. and Mrs. A.C. Watkins.
Tucker's lectures explored the great heritage of music in the Church and its relevance for today. Special attention was given to the unique place music holds in promoting Christian unity and empowering the witness of those in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.
The preaching conference was entitled Finding Your Rhythm: Preaching the Church Year. The theme explored how the church can proclaim the good news of Christ faithfully through the various seasons of the Christian year and a congregation's yearly life and rhythm. The conference featured preachers from diverse backgrounds and contexts and included Edgar Diaz, Christa Klosterman, Tara Beth Leach, Jon Middendorf, Brent Peterson, and Stuart Williams. Esteban Trujillo served as the worship leader for the event. The conference concluded with a celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Each session included a sermon delivered by one of the featured preachers followed by a panel discussion where preachers and scholars fielded questions submitted by participants. The goal was to explore theological and practical concerns surrounding the task of preaching and equip attendees for their ministry context.
"Sometimes in ministry, it feels like you are all alone,” participant Shannon Green said. “But the NTS Preachers Conference reminds me that others are dealing with difficult questions and conversations in their ministry contexts, too, and it offers practical advice on how to tackle those topics from the pulpit."
Dan Copp, director of Global Clergy Development, spoke to the affect the conference had in equipping ministers.
"I found the preaching and time of conversation/reflection to be helpful in so many ways, including very practical takeaways for women and men desiring to improve as pastors/preachers,” he said. “I particularly appreciated the rich diversity of contexts, cultures, and styles represented by the preachers."
Many attendees also experienced the conference as a time of personal spiritual renewal.
"The conference provided space for me to rest, listen, and fellowship with others called to the preaching life,” participant Donabel Martin said. “It was challenging, resourcing, and most all, life-giving."
The Preachers Conference is named after Nazarene Theological Seminary's first president, Hugh C. Benner, who served as president from 1945 to 1952. NTS was pleased to welcome Benner's daughter, Jan Benner Miller, to be a guest and participant at the conference. A video paying tribute to the legacy of Hugh C. Benner's ministry was shown at the beginning of the conference and a special collection of photos, books, and letters from his ministry was displayed.
"NTS is privileged to serve as convener of a beautiful diversity of contexts and approaches to the practice of preaching and engagement with God's Word,” said Josh Sweeden, NTS dean of the faculty. “The Watkins Lecture pre-conference and Preachers Conference are ways we resource the church, a continuation of the legacy of our first president, Dr. Hugh C. Benner."
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